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a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Scarface: Make Way
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De Palma a la Mod

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Monday, June 15, 2020

At Unlovely Frankenstein, Wallace McBride has several terrific-looking Phantom Of The Paradise themed prints and trading cards going on. "The Phantom of the Paradise deserved better," McBride states in the trading card pack description. "And not just Winslow Leach ... the entire damn movie. It was a box office bomb that, unlike some of its musical contemporaries, didn't quickly pick up a cult following. The Phantom of the Paradise Cult developed at a glacial pace, moving so slowly as to never really developing much in the way of ephemeral merch. So I wanted to see how trading cards for the film might have looked had they been released in 1974 by a well-meaning (but oblivious) bubble gum company." The trading cards include a reverse-side puzzle, and the wrapper has a bit in the fold: "New! DEATH RECORDS Special Magazine offer: 'BEEF MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK'"

To that end, McBride also has several Phantom Of The Paradise prints available on the site, including one for the fictional "Beef Meets The Phantom Of The Park." Definitely worth checking out.

Posted by Geoff at 8:09 AM CDT
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Saturday, June 13, 2020

"Brian De Palma’s Scarface is lightning in a bottle," states Sealgair MacUistain in this week's Thursday film review at Back-Country Populist. "It is a film that resonated immediately with the conscience and subconscious of the American audience and still accomplishes the same today. With a killer soundtrack that captures the merry and vapid decadence of the 1980’s, first rate camera work from De Palma and crew (seriously, De Palma is extremely good at visual story telling. He is technically sound.), and a tour de force of acting and story telling, Scarface is consistently ranked among the best of not only crime films, but films in general."

In his review, MacUistain states upfront that while Scarface "is a totally secular movie that has nothing ostensibly to do with Christianity," he will proceed to use the film to explore "the great modern American heresy" that being a good person will get you to heaven. "Bottom line up front: being likable, or 'a good person', or 'nice' is not what saves you," MacUistain explains. "You are still broken and in need of salvation outside of yourself. If you rely on yourself alone, you will perish."

Delving into the character of Tony Montana, MacUistain writes:

People are wont to admire Tony Montana’s rise to power and his “heroic” last stand. His hard work, can-do attitude, and confidence inspire a lot of people. Tony feels that he and other hard working people are getting played by the real crooks who are at the top of the pyramid. At first glance, Tony Montana is absolutely someone to admire.

That is, of course, until you realize that all of his decisions led him to being shot dozens of times and floating face down in a pool of his own blood. Additionally, he has killed or driven away anyone who ever cared about him.

Tony Montana has many admirable attributes. He is incredibly smart, hard working, enterprising, charismatic, loyal, and charming. However, he uses those talents improperly, to say the least. Speaking of talents, I do believe there is a passage of scripture related to this. Why don’t you go ahead and open up the Good Book to Luke 19:11-17 and read the Parable of the Talents? How did Tony use his talents? His mother disowns him. He kills his best friend because he fell in love with his sister. He gets his sister killed after ruining her life and Tony probably suffers from some sort of malformed sexual attraction to his sister. His wife leaves him. His allies all turn on him. Every friend and employee he has is brutally killed. Yes, you went mighty wrong there Tony!

Despite all of his talents, he is not moral. He is not virtuous. “What? Sealgair you hack! You don’t think the attributes of hard work, loyalty, charisma, and devotion are moral? You’re a fraud! I’m going to write about you in the comments about how wrong and stupid you are!”

Comment away, my hypothetical friend! Let me also point out to you that those traits, admirable though they may be, do not equate to morality nor virtue. Hitler was hard working and devoted. Ted Bundy was charismatic. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino had a damn sixteen pack, admirable as that is. None of that makes those fellows virtuous or moral. None of those traits mean anything if they are not used for an objective good. You are either on the wide path to destruction, floating around caring only about yourself, or you are on the narrow path oriented to Christ. Tony, obviously, is a selfish and loathsome irredeemable person on the wide path toward destruction.

Scarface is a morality tale. It is a cautionary tale. It is very plain and simple. Do not be like Tony.

After looking at the selfish ways Tony Montana relates to his wife, his mother, his sister, and his best friend, MacUistain continues:
But wait! Tony has a code! He refuses to kill children! And that is what really triggers his demise! Well, you are on the right track, but that is not really the whole story. Yes, it is true that Tony (correctly, and indeed morally) refuses to kill children. He was about to willingly assassinate a dude dedicating his life to stopping the plague of drugs, but he refused to go through with the assassination because children would have been caught in the cross hairs. Look, if the standard we use for “good dude” is comprised solely of “he does not kill children” then we have a lot of work to do as a society.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, June 14, 2020 7:07 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 10, 2020
JUNE 10, 2020

Posted by Geoff at 12:19 AM CDT
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Tuesday, June 9, 2020
JUNE 9, 2020

Posted by Geoff at 12:05 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, June 9, 2020 1:52 AM CDT
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Monday, June 8, 2020

Yesterday at Collider, Drew Taylor posted an article about Disney's "Mission To Mars" attraction. "45 years ago today Mission to Mars opened at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World," Taylor begins. "The attraction, which simulated the experience of blasting guests to the red planet, would [have] an oddly lasting effect on the company, inspiring a poorly received film that in turn would serve as the basis [of] an equally mediocre attraction. And on and on it goes, like the rotation of some huge planet. For some reason (and for many years), its gravitational pull was too great."

Here's a further excerpt from Taylor's article:

In June, 1975, Mission to Mars was first launched. It featured many of the same animatronics and even some of the same footage in the pre-show and ride film, but new elements were made to the show itself, both in terms of effects (inflatable seats would be inflated or deflated, to simulate space travel) and story points (hello, hyperspace travel). In 1975 Mission to Mars was installed in Disneyland too. But by the early 1990s, it was starting to show its age. It lacked the visceral thrills and excitement that modern audiences demanded and much of the science and technology was outdated and creaky. It closed in 1992 in Disneyland and 1993 in Walt Disney World. The mission had come to an end.

Or had it?

Since the late 2000s, Disney had been noodling with the idea of turning some of its beloved theme park attractions into equally beloved big screen events. The test pilot was Tower of Terror, a 1997 horror comedy starring Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst that aired on Wonderful World of Disney and, more crucially, acted as an 89-minute commercial for The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror, an innovative attraction that opened at what was then known as Disney-MGM Studios a few years earlier. (Part of the movie was actually filmed at the attraction in Florida. At the time MGM-Studios took pride in the fact that it was a fully operational production studio, even though hardly anything was ever shot there.) The movie was enough of a hit that several other projects inched through development, among them were big screen adaptations of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion, along with Dinosaur, an animated film that was using state-of-the-art technology and was being developed alongside an attraction set to open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Ah, synergy.

But the film that would ultimately make it out of the gate first was Mission to Mars. Part of this had to do with an arms race Disney was having with Warner Bros, who was developing their own Mars-themed project called Red Planet. (A couple of years earlier Disney had found itself in a similar situation as its own Armageddon squared off against Paramount and DreamWorks’ Deep Impact.) And part of it had to do with the fact that the studio really didn’t publicize that it was based on the theme park attraction, which at the time had been shuttered for the better part of a decade. The movies-based-on-theme-park-attractions idea appealed to Disney chief Michael Eisner but it still made him nervous. It was Eisner who made the last-minute decision to add the cumbersome subtitle to Pirates of the Caribbean in an effort to distance itself from the attraction. If Mission to Mars was a success, so be it. But the connections between the theme park attraction and the movie were not going to be explicitly drawn.

And, truth be told, the movie, directed by Brian De Palma from a screenplay officially credited to Jim and John Thomas and Graham Yost, doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the original attraction. Sure, it’s about an expedition to Mars. But there aren’t any direct parallels to be drawn, save from that amazing long shot, set to Van Halen’s “Dance the Night Away,” which features a rotating circular centrifuge, that explicitly recalls a similar image on one of the screens in the Mission to Mars preshow. (It’s a deep cut, I know.) Where there could have been references, there are emphatically not. You’d think that some of the characters could have had the last name “Morrow” or “Johnson,” references to the audio-animatronic figure that gave you the rundown in the ride’s pre-show. But, alas, there is none. De Palma, whose experience on the film wasn’t particularly positive (“It was relentless,” he said in the De Palma documentary), never mentioned the original attraction. It’s unclear if he even knew the film was an adaptation of a popular theme park attraction.

When Mission to Mars came out in the spring of 2000 (happy 20th!), it lost money, making $111 million internationally from a budget of over $100 million. De Palma was so broken by the project that he left the United States. “The Hollywood system we work in does nothing but destroy you,” De Palma said in the documentary. “When I finished that movie, that’s when I got on a plane and went to Paris. Mission to Mars was the last movie I made in the United States.” (Mission to Mars did get some strong notices from critics, particularly overseas. It was #4 on Cashiers du Cinema’s collective Top 10 that year, outranking The Virgin Suicides and In the Mood For Love.) But box office be damned, Mission to Mars was going to live on.

EPCOT had wanted a space pavilion since the early 1990s. It made sense. EPCOT (formerly EPCOT Center) was the science and discovery park. Space should have always been there. Initial plans called for a giant pavilion wherein several attractions would be accessible (one would have simulated a spacewalk, with guests suspended from an overhead track, peering into the outside of a space station) but budget cuts and the popularity of Horizons, a sort-of space-themed attraction about futuristic communities, occupying the same land that the new pavilion would have been placed, meant the space pavilion was off the table. But the idea was being revisited at the close of the decade; Horizons had lost its corporate sponsorship and a large sinkhole had been detected underneath its massive show building. They could finally do the really-for-real space pavilion and they had a cutting-edge idea to go along with it: spinning centrifuge that would make you feel weightless. They also had a flashy Disney movie they could piggyback on: Mission to Mars.

Disney enlisted Gary Sinise, one of the stars of Mission to Mars, to host the preshow for the new attraction, now called Mission: Space. (Sinise essentially is playing the same character but his name is never spoken.) And the big, wheel-shaped room from the “Dance the Night Away” scene is actually a part of the attraction’s extended queue, along with several model spaceships from the film (much of the visual effects work for the movie was provided by Dream Quest Images, Disney’s in-house visual effects company, that was shuttered following Mission to Mars’ release). On a narrative level, this new attraction borrowed heavily from the Mission to Mars attraction, including the conceit that you are being trained to make the journey to outer space and the patina of pseudo-scientific education. But this time the emphasis was on thrills.

So Mission to Mars, a movie inspired by a Disney theme park attraction, inspired another Disney theme park attraction. Moving in a circle, just like the astronauts in the movie. Who has the Van Halen?

Posted by Geoff at 7:57 AM CDT
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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Karyn Kusama, director of Jennifer's Body, The Invitation, and Destroyer, joined the Kingcast podcast this week over at Birth. Movies. Death. as their special guest, discussing Stephen King's Carrie, and Brian De Palma's film version of King's novel. "I chose Carrie," Kusama tells the hosts, "because for me, Carrie is sort of a foundational... not just horror movie, just a foundational movie. And I think it has a welcome female point of view that actually is quite -- certainly in the film version -- is quite vividly brought to life, and I just love the idea that audiences got to root for this shy, strange girl... with very special powers, you know."

About midway through the discussion, host Scott Wampler talks about how his wife watched the film recently. "She was saying that, as much as she enjoys the movie, and feels that it's successful, she was saying she kind of wishes that a woman had written it. And... do you have any feelings on that? Does it make a difference to you if it's... if it resonates, does it matter?"

To this, Kusama responds, "I think when it resonates, it's a window into all of our capacity to have empathy, to think from another point of view. And to me, the great victory of the movie is that it is such a female point of view. Like, I don't believe that I'm looking at an interpretation of a young woman's inner life from a perspective that isn't female. And so, for me, you know, look: when [De Palma's] camera is glorious slo-mo, just tracking through a locker room and we're watching a bunch of naked girls, of course I'm aware that they're naked, but I'm also aware that they're like... I'm aware of the swagger, and the power in their nakedness. And the power in their femaleness together that to me feels akin to a locker room filled with boys. Like, I guess to me, the movie has the complexity of... I just want to say, these hopeful currents that run through it that are actually giving us access to female experience. So for me, I guess I see it as like a kind of thrilling openness on the part of the writer and director to put themselves in the psyche of this tortured girl. And I guess that, to me, says that this is where gender questions and our sort of hope for more representation gets a little murky. Because to me, this is actually a great representation of a female character as imagined by a male writer and a male director."

At this point, Wampler is so delightfully stunned by Kusama's answer that he tells her so. After a bit of laughter, Kusama continues: "Look, I'm always hoping to see... you know, some of my favorite movies have to be movies directed... most of them end up being movies directed by men. Because that's simply the... that's what was available and has been available for so long. And so if I'm going to see a touch point of deep empathy, almost uncanny willingness to go into the heart of the female consciousness, I just have to take my hat off and say, I respect that effort when it's successful. I have a lot to say when it's not successful. And don't get me wrong, I think it's just so easy for us to misunderstand and misrepresent people. That's just part of the trial of storytelling. And so, to just have... I mean, I don't know, personally, the movie has such a sort of florid sensuousness that to me it's like the female in De Palma directed that movie."

As the conversation moves on, there is talk about the shifting of tone within De Palma's film, and how one of the hosts hadn't seen it for 20 years, and didn't realize until he recently watched it again for this episode how much of a De Palma film it is. There is talk about how iconic the prom scene is with Carrie in split-screen, drenched in blood and her wide eyes, and how these are the images most people think of when they think about Carrie. "It's really incredible to me, and it shows how great a director De Palma is," co-host Eric Vespe says, "is being able to handle that tone shift, from that goofy, bouncy, lets-go-shopping-for-tuxes scene, and moving directly from that into one of the most skin-crawling moments."

Wampler then asks Kusama if that is the first sequence she thinks of when she thinks of the film. "It's funny," Kusama replies, "I actually think more about Piper Laurie in her scenes with Carrie, only because that performance was so specifically... the engine of it is sexual repression that is so intense that it just oozes out of every pore of her body.

"But, I mean, I do think that that prom sequence is iconic in so many ways. And it is true that there's a kind of technical willingness from De Palma to be just sort of firing on all cyclinders, trying a bunch of things. Really, quite literally kind of wanting to be awe-inspiring, you know. And that's the quality of, like, Medusa walking through the school gym. There are moments-- there are cuts in that scene that are so, so powerful. You know, even the idea that we haven't really seen Carrie full-body until we cut to that first moment that she starts walking off the stage and just through the mayhem that she's created. So, it just gives you shivers, you know, and that, I think... my memory of Carrie was always about that mom relationship, and what does it mean to feel like maybe your parent doesn't want you, on a most fundamental level, but also might actually kill you. [Laughs] I think that that kind of terror is so profound that it then gives... it's sort of the emotional underpinning to, then, this sort of incredible technical achievement that De Palma has with that final sequence in the prom.

And I just want to go back and say that, like... when you were talking about the De Palma-ness of the movie... I reread... I remember reading, when I was on a huge Pauline Kael kick where I was just reading every review she had ever written. I remembered her review of Carrie being kind of rhapsodic, and I went back to it to read it again last night, and was so struck by how she had nailed, not just what De Palma was doing, but also what kind of pleasure it brings. Because she said, you know, there's scary and scary, and funny and funny. But scary and funny might be the most potent combination in cinema. And that is Carrie. You know, that you can both laugh, in this kind of horrible way. And even sometimes just sort of laugh at the floridness of the filmmaking. It's like De Palma gives you permission to say, like, whoa, dude, that's a little over the top, you know. And then he just, in giving you that permission, he just goes for the jugular. And I just think there's something about that definition of De Palma's sensibility that is actually like a really important reminder of what it was that he was doing, which were these incredible experiments in tone. So he was willing to have Piper Laurie's character kind of be ridiculous when she goes to see Sue Snell's mother. But then the minute Sue Snell's mom says, "Here's five dollars. No, here's ten dollars," and you see Piper Laurie crawl back into herself... you're just like, this is gonna be such a scary movie. [laughter] So I do think there's something, too, just about the De Palma signature blend of asking the audience to kind of be in on the joke with him, and then just sort of pulling it all out from under us. That's De Palma at his best, in my opinion."

There's a lot of great discussion beyond this in the podcast, which I highly recommend listening to.


Karyn Kusama & Diablo Cody cite Carrie & Heathers among inspirations for Jennifer's Body

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, June 4, 2020 9:01 PM CDT
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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Last Friday, Armond White reviewed Are Snakes Necessary? for National Review. In the review, White erroneously refers to co-author Susan Lehman as Brian De Palma's wife, although they are not, in fact, married. Here's an excerpt:
Think of Brian De Palma’s first novel — Are Snakes Necessary? — as his COVID-19 movie. Produced under duress, during a period when De Palma was blocked from green-lighted big-budget Hollywood filmmaking, rather like shelter-in-place restrictions, it is as full of movie references as any De Palma film.

Are Snakes Necessary? is also politically charged, continuing the obsession with skullduggery and government suspicion that goes back to De Palma’s earliest films, the anti-draft satire Greetings, and the radical activist/media satire Hi, Mom! This time. modernist De Palma satirizes the very form he essays — the hard-boiled crime novel with its built-in plot twists and duplicitous femme fatales.

Lead character Elizabeth de Carlo follows such puckish De Palma heroines as Grace and Danielle in Sisters and Laure/Lilly in Femme Fatale, where identity folds, multiplies, contrasts, and mirrors. Elizabeth and a mother-daughter duo, Jenny and Fanny, are involved with untrustworthy males: a photographer, a politician, and his political consultant, who variously exploit the women sexually and politically. Elizabeth, de Palma writes, has “innate grace.” She goes by the rule that “knowing how to speak to the animal in the man is half the game.” (She’s like Rebecca De Mornay in Alex Cox’s The Winner, a sign of De Palma’s instinctive cinematic good taste).

Tension and humor, De Palma’s two best tricks, propel the narrative, which deliberately references specific Kennedy and Clinton scandals (although De Palma indulges typical liberal petulance when labeling the offenders “Republicans”). But the villain of the piece, with his gruesome comeuppance, reveals the true political intent of Are Snakes Necessary? It is an apologia for De Palma the (supposedly) sexist pop artist.

This would be unnecessary in a fairer, more erudite era that was not held hostage to #MeToo coercion but, instead, appreciated that De Palma created more memorable and sympathetic female characters in Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise, Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, and Femme Fatale than any female filmmaker. The sops to feminism in Are Snakes Necessary? might be the result of De Palma’s collaborating with his wife, Susan Lehman, a former New York Times editor.

In De Palma’s own field, where his virtuosity has no contemporary parallel, it isn’t likely that he would share the role of auteur with another byline. Lehman, credited as co-author, may be providing cover for De Palma’s usual misunderstood, bad-boy fantasies: “He never thought he could have everything — brains and beauty and sexy and sweet and light and hot — in one package.” Yet the novel’s strict adherence to female empowerment (“the one and only rescuer in Elizabeth’s story has been Elizabeth”) and revenge renders the novel trite. Its stock plotting lacks the larger, cosmic fate that ultimately made Carrie, Dressed to Kill, and Casualties of War so powerful and that lifted The Fury, Blow Out, and Femme Fatale into awe-inspiring, cosmic visions.

De Palma’s decision to write a novel supports his brave, hold-out position as a cinéaste who resists television. Before television conquered cinema, especially for the “golden age of cable-TV” generation and today’s streaming culture, there was a concept called “la caméra-stylo” (camera-pen), formulated by critic and filmmaker Alexandre Astruc to describe filmmaking that was as fluent and expressive as writing. The museum cruising scene of Dressed to Kill fits Astruc’s theory, as does the carefully built final sunlit tableau of Femme Fatale: pure cinema.

Although De Palma finds no literary equivalent to his famous split-screen device in Sisters or even the binocular sequence in Richard Quine’s Pushover that influenced De Palma’s voyeur fetish (which culminated in the noir extravagance of the nighttime sound-recording sequence in Blow Out), he tries writing such effects. Most of it is narrative wind-up. It takes a while before we get to the first movie moment of visual contradiction: “Rogers can’t see the paper, which if he could would stop his heart (not to mention his campaign): in clear bold print, the paper says Paternity Test Results: POSITIVE.” It’s a naughty joke, like Angie Dickinson discovering the venereal-disease health notice in Dressed to Kill combined with Obsession’s incest revelation.

Some moments show De Palma’s media sophistication (“videotaping has the potential to change how we campaign”) and his yearning to make cinema (“I need to feel the rush and shoot it”), especially his reference to The Great Gatsby’s Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, whose bespectacled eyes, on an old, faded billboard, stare down at Gatsby — an ideal De Palma image. He is a Hitchcock buff here: “Nick, crushed by the ending he has orchestrated, drops his camera to his side and looks over the railing” like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo. He pays secret homage to Fritz Lang’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. And he is his own best critic here: “It all happened in that funny slow-motion way events unfold in the heat of certain moments.”

There’s also some plain good writing:

Rogers has the same general regard for applause. He treats it the way porpoises regard the shiny red balls they balance on their noses, He chases it. He relishes it. He plays it for all it’s worth. Applause is his favorite toy.

Best of all are the last 15 chapters, mostly short, one-page action-filled accounts that evoke De Palma’s suspenseful, contrapuntal crosscut editing style.

In the final paragraph of his review, White writes that the novel's title "reveals a roué’s phallic embarrassment, which De Palma typically compounds with a film reference: Norman Taurog’s 1942 comedy Are Husbands Necessary? But this lockdown creation commands attention because it also evinces social and cultural change — the shift from De Palma’s counterculture Sixties origins to Millennial resignation. The liberal critique he delivered in his Iraq War movie Redacted was a shocking failure, so now, following the wonderfully perceptive but hardly seen Domino, De Palma is a cinema outsider, left spinning a handwritten tale about 'the world of politics — of smoke and mirrors and endless spin . . . lies.'"

Posted by Geoff at 7:29 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, June 4, 2020 9:04 PM CDT
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Monday, June 1, 2020

In last week's La Repubblica interview, Brian De Palma is asked by Silvia Bizio whether he and Susan Lehman will write together in the future. "We have already written another book," De Palma responds. "It's called Terry. It is inspired by Emile Zola's Thérèse Raquin and it's about a film production that is making a film about the book. There is a love triangle in the film, a lover, and a murder. And the same thing happens among the characters who are making the film."

In March of 2019, in an on-stage chat at the Quais du Polar in Lyon, France, De Palma had mentioned Thérèse Raquin as both a film idea he's had for years, and also as the subject of their next novel. With Lehman on stage with him, the subject came up during the Q&A when an audience member asked De Palma, "Are there any French characters, authors or films that inspire you?"

"I've made a lot of movies here," De Palma began in response. "And Thérèse Raquin is an idea I've... always had an idea for a movie for. Thérèse Raquin's been made many times, but I think I have a new way of... in fact, that's sort of the subject of our next novel, isn't it? We love the French, that's why we're here. They're very kind to me."

In fact, De Palma was close to getting his film version of this story, to be titled Magic Hour, made in 2013 with producer Saïd Ben Saïd. The pair had just made Passion together the year before. Screen Daily's Geoffrey Macnab reported that Emily Mortimer was to play the lead in the film, which was described as a "loose adaptation of Emile Zola's Therese Raquin, featuring both period and contemporary elements." Macnab added that "the story is about a film director and two actors shooting a movie version of Zola's novel and finding that it reflects experiences in their own lives."


Earlier in 2013, without naming the project, Ben Saïd told Nicolas Schaller about a film he was then developing with De Palma: "This is a film about cinema that is not devoid of humor or cruelty. It happens on a shoot between a director, an actor and an actress. De Palma wrote it by drawing on things that have happened to him. It is a kind of film testament."

De Palma's Therese Raquin film titled Magic Hour
Emily Mortimer cast in De Palma's next film

Posted by Geoff at 7:55 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, June 1, 2020 7:57 PM CDT
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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Thanks to Fabio for sending along this Brian De Palma interview from last Sunday's Robinson, a weekly cultural supplement included in Italy's La Repubblica newspaper. The interview by Silvia Bizio forcuses on Are Snakes Necessary?, and while the bulk of it is mainly with De Palma, the intro includes a couple of quotes from De Palma's co-author, Susan Lehman, who says, "Writing is a very lonely activity, but doing it with Brian was fun." Lehman adds, "Brian outlined the main themes, obviously with a visual image. And then we went back to fix them with characters, descriptions and humor. It was fun, almost a game. The goal was to make the other laugh."

Here is the bulk of the interview that follows then, with the help of Google translation:

De Palma, who turns 80 in September, speaks from his home in East Hampton. And in isolation with Susan, a dog and a cat: "What do I think of the American response to the virus? They are dealing with it badly and I hope this administration will end in November."

How was the book born?

"It is inspired by political events that were happening when the idea came to us. The scandal of Gary Condit, for example, when the intern with whom he had an adulterous relationship disappears: only later was she found dead in a park in Washington DC. Another episode was that of Senator John Edwards and the filmmaker who worked on his campaign. When I saw them it seemed to me that they were flirting, and in fact in the end he had an affair with her, and a girl was conceived. "

What makes a politician like him so interesting that you want him as the protagonist of this story?

"The fact that politicians are involved in sexual scandals is part of a cliche. The two I mentioned instead are rather unique in their kind. A flirtation with a girl who is filming episodes on the campaign ends with a pregnant girl. Amusing."

Do you believe that we will return to talk about morality in politics?

"It's not like we were sleeping, but in reality we wrote the book before Trump's election. We narrate two unique political situations, which involve the promiscuity of two great political figures. Politics and sex are two naturally compatible elements. And then in the book there is the idea of ​​finding the characters on a set in Paris. Taking advantage of my experience as a film director, I also wanted to bring this element into the story. For some reason, French critics took this very seriously ... "

There is a fun chapter on Arnold Schwarzenegger. Why him?

"Because he had a son with his housekeeper, more or less the same time he had a son with Maria, his wife. Very funny."

And you didn't even want to try to hide the name, you put it out in the open.

"Well, the story was in People magazine. Can't get more out in the open than that..."

How does writing a novel differ from writing a screenplay? Is it similar?

"I like writing scripts, because essentially they are made of dialogue, characters and places, you don't have to write descriptions. Writing descriptions is not my strength, but Susan is very good at that and also with writing the inner emotional life of the character. When you write a screenplay, you don't always consider the depth of a character, because depending on who will interpret it, it will be modeled on that specific actor. So it is much more similar to a draft, unlike a book, which instead is complete in the setting, the moods, the inner life of the characters."

In the final chapters the character of Nick, the photographer, finds himself on the set of "Vertigo". Again, a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. Why do you see it so often in your works?

"I've been answering this question for 50 years! (Laughs) Okay, it seemed very funny. Vertigo is based on a French novel, and I thought it would be nice to set the climax of the book in a very high place. So I said, why not at the foot of the Eiffel Tower? It was the way to bring the characters from the book together in one big scene. It's fun. People keep comparing my works with those of Hitchcock and, as I've said numerous times, Hitchcock was a great master and pioneer of visual storytelling. I learned from what he did and at the same time I experimented with new ways of telling something visually; I think I am the last practitioner of this form."

Some women in the book are victims, the wife, the lover, the daughter, but in the end there is a redemption, they become protagonists, they are the ones who take the action in hand.

"We decided to write a story of female revenge, but to have a redemption, you must first put on the victim's clothes. And the dramatic positions they are in at the beginning, with treacherous husbands and liars, it seemed to us an effective summary of what happens to women. If you want to write a story of women's revenge, your bow will start from the opposite situation. You will start with some kind of abuse."

At the end of the interview, Bizio asks De Palma if he'd like a film based on Are Snakes Necessary? "It would be a lot of work," De Palma responds. "Many locations, it would be one of those $200 million films! Or a ten-part streaming series, I wouldn't know. Like many authors, I wouldn't want to be involved in the film adaptation, even if I'm a film director."

Posted by Geoff at 9:26 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Today at The Guardian, Erik Morse writes passionately about Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, as part of The Guardian series, "My favourite film aged 12." "Despite Dressed to Kill’s highly inappropriate content for a suburban child of 12," Morse explains, "I was instantly transfixed by a heavily edited version of the film that screened regularly on late-night TV." Here's an excerpt from Morse's essay:
Much more than the mature plot, however, Dressed to Kill’s kaleidoscopic atmosphere – its watery, soft-focus lens, garish colour palette and flashy, optical tricks such as slow-motion, mirrored surfaces, split screens and dioptres – was a feast for my languorous, pre-teen senses. On several occasions, I would wake up to catch the film at its midpoint or nod off before the ending, allowing the collage of images and music to splice into the edges of my sleep. The tense melodies of Pino Donaggio’s soundtrack and the likeness of an androgyne wielding a straight razor would soon become a Proustian madeleine from which countless reveries of my nocturnal childhood would unfold.

De Palma’s mastery of atmosphere was on no greater display than in the film’s early, museum set-piece – a 10-minute, dialogue-free sequence in which the director’s viewfinder glides around Dickinson’s character and through the Met’s galleries and corridors while she pursues, then is pursued, by a potential suitor. As the scene’s tension and pace builds, the labyrinthine interior assumes the contours of a De Chirico painting, or to my child’s eyes, the floating floorplan of a dream. Multiple viewings would reveal another surprise: a split-second cameo of the murderer embedded in the set dressing.

This scene, followed by another silent, slow-burn sequence that culminates in Miller’s grisly death in an elevator, proved to be an exhilarating initiation into the architecture of suspense. The lead character’s abrupt exit from the screen and the subsequent narrative switcheroo to Blake’s story also demonstrated how film could manipulate red herrings and false leads so that, more than mere plot devices, they appeared to me like celluloid apparitions captured in time. While the role reversals of the “good” doctor and “bad” hooker, and the multiple doubles in the film’s climax, hinted at cinema’s intimate bond to secret identities and masquerade.

These lavish visual and rhetorical sleights of hand fed into the richness of cinema’s dream language.

The film’s pleasures were not only abstract. Within the nests of set-pieces and dream sequences, De Palma’s images also produced a montage of New York City at the beginning of the 1980s, a place and an era that I recognised only from a distance. The elegant uptown and slummy downtown, insular high-rise and turbulent subway car, baroque interior and darkened streetscape. These landmarks helped to plot my own imaginary atlas years before I would move to the city as a university film student and discover its very different, millennial landscape.

To a suburban child with an appetite for suspense, De Palma’s masterpiece of urban atmosphere both terrified and enthralled, and inspired in me a lasting passion for genre cinema.

Posted by Geoff at 11:45 PM CDT
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